When I came out into the firelight with the double-barrelled shotgun, the two Reb Road Agents stopped and stared at me with Expression No. 4 – Surprise – across both their faces.
‘Drop ’em. Now!’ I said in my most commanding voice. I held the gun beside my hip, my grip relaxed but not loose.
They looked at me & then they looked at each other & then they started to laugh.
‘Lookee there! It is that strange little girl from the stagecoach!’ cried Kepi. ‘She is dressed up as a midget Marshal, you bet.’
‘I reckon if she pulls the trigger the kick will knock her off her feet,’ said Slouch.
They were laughing so hard they did not even bother to draw their sidearms.
I pointed the double-barrelled shotgun at the branch above their heads & pulled the trigger. There was a gargantuan explosion that echoed and re-echoed in the mountain night and sent pine needles drifting down into the clearing. The gun had indeed given a powerful kick, but I had been holding it slightly away from my body so it did me no harm at all apart from the ringing in my ears. When the gun smoke dispersed I saw their sidearms on the ground before them and their hands stretched high in the air.
‘You,’ I said to Kepi. ‘Take off your pard’s belt and cinch up his hands real good behind his back. But first, back away from your guns.’
They backed away from their guns.
While Kepi was undoing Slouch’s belt, I walked over towards them and kicked their revolvers back towards where I had been hiding. Keeping the barrel of the shotgun trained on the two outlaws, I backed up. Then I used my left hand to pick up the biggest revolver. It was Slouch’s. One glance told me it was a Remington Army which takes a .44 caliber ball. I stuck it in my whang leather belt.
After Kepi bound Slouch’s hands real good, I gestured at Slouch’s feet. ‘Take off his boots,’ I said. ‘Then take off yours.’
‘No!’ whimpered Kepi. ‘Not that!’
‘Take off your boots,’ I insisted. ‘Or I will blow you out of them.’
With much grunting and glaring, Kepi took off Slouch’s boots & then his own.
‘Now, take those leather reins and use them to tie him to that tree trunk,’ I commanded.
‘Listen,’ said Slouch, as he backed up to the tree in his stocking feet. ‘We got lots of silver here. We are happy to share it with you if you will just let us go.’
‘Nope,’ I said. ‘And stop talking.’
‘We were supposed to shoot her dead,’ muttered Kepi as he tied his pard to the tree.
‘I did my best,’ said Slouch.
I only had one shot left in the scattergun so I took that big Remington revolver from my whang leather belt & cocked it & fired another warning shot into the tree trunk a few inches above Slouch’s head.
‘Dang!’ yelped Slouch, ducking down.
‘Cheese it!’ I commanded. ‘Now, sit down with your back against the tree. Tie him up good,’ I said to Kepi.
Slouch sat at the foot of the tree & Kepi tied him to it real good.
‘Now take off your belt,’ I said to Kepi.
Kepi took off his belt.
‘Use it to bind up your own ankles real good,’ I said.
He bound up his ankles. I noticed he had a hole in his sock where his big toe poked through.
‘Sit on the other side of the tree from your pard,’ I said.
Kepi hopped over to the other side of the tree & sat down awkwardly, with his back to the leather-bound trunk and his belt-bound legs straight out before him. I stuck the revolver back in my belt, transferred the shotgun in my right hand & took the end of the leather traces in my left hand. I tied it to the strip of leather already wound around the tree. Then I made three circuits of the tree, wrapping them both up real tight.
The fire had died down to a reddish glow so I threw a few more pieces of wood on the embers & stood with my back to it & examined my work. They could both see me if they turned their heads but they could not see one another.
‘One word from either of you,’ I warned, ‘and I will take off your socks and stuff them in your mouths as a gag.’
‘You goddam blank!’ said Slouch. ‘You would not dare.’
I put down the double-barrelled shotgun & went over to him & tugged off his smelly socks and stuffed them both in his mouth.
‘Try to spit them out and I will shoot you in the foot,’ I warned.
Then I went round to do the same to Kepi.
‘Please no,’ he whimpered. ‘I promise I will be quiet.’
But Ma Evangeline taught me never to make a threat unless you are prepared to carry it out. So I took off his threadbare socks and put them in his mouth, too.
I almost felt sorry for them until I remembered the .44 caliber bullet hole in my bonnet.
It was now chilly, even with my velvet, fur-trimmed sacque. I went over to stand by the revived fire. I warmed my hands above it and pondered what to do. They had mentioned a stash of ‘booty’ at ‘Grizzly Gulch’.
Then I remembered Slouch saying the ‘shebang’ was ‘less than a mile’.
I reckoned they were talking about their camp. If I set out now with the silver-laden horses, I could get there before the moon set. I might even see another stage or rider on the road and send for the Law. Then they could put Slouch and Kepi in jail to await a trial.
I glanced over at them. They sat barefoot & gagged & back-to-back with a big old pine trunk between them. They could not see each other but they both had their heads turned & were staring at me. With their socks poking out of their open mouths it looked like they were angrily sticking out their tongues at me.
But even as I watched, I saw their expressions change. Their eyes got wider & their eyebrows went up. They were giving me Expression No. 4 – Surprise.
Why were they looking at me like that?
Then I realized. They were not looking at me.
They were looking beyond me.
Someone – or something – was coming up behind me!
[Don't have a clue what's going on? Start with chapter one.]
The Case of the Bogus Detective by Caroline Lawrence is the fourth P.K. Pinkerton Mystery. You can buy the first 3 real cheap HERE. And you can read the rest of this one HERE. Or just check into this blog, where I will be posting chapters weekly!